One in every three cars now a minivehicle

Kyodo News

The number of minivehicles in Japan surpassed 25 million for the first time in June, accounting for one out of every three automobiles on the road, an industry body said Tuesday.

Minivehicles, defined as vehicles with engines of 660cc or smaller, numbered 25.06 million as of June 30, out of the total of 75 million four-wheel vehicles, according to the Light Motor Vehicle Inspection Organization.

Sales of minivehicles shot up to a record 2.02 million in 2006, a gain of 5.2 percent.

Industry officials attribute the surge partly to the little cars’ more affordable pricing and lower taxes. Their fuel efficiency amid soaring gasoline prices contributes to their popularity.

One official said the number of minivehicles soared in 2006 “because automakers took the wraps off a slew of new models and unleashed fully restyled models.”

Out of all minivehicles in Japan, cars accounted for 15.55 million. Vehicles with relatively large rear cargo spaces, used mainly for business purposes, came to roughly 9.5 million.

Cargo minivehicles traditionally had a larger user base than their regular brethren until March 31, 2001, when minicars took over.

Industry officials said the minivehicle category has been popular particularly with women and the elderly because they are easy to drive.

Such cars also benefited from fuel efficiency and low maintenance costs after the asset-inflated bubble burst in the early 1990s, they said.

The number of minivehicles in Japan surpassed 10 million in February 1985, 15 million in November 1990 and 20 million in December 2000.